Benita Chacko

Our focus is to transition from data-first thinking to data-first working this year: GroupM Nexus’ Priti Murthy

The media performance organisation’s president speaks about how the ‘Engine of GroupM’ is helping its agencies in media planning in a data-driven and fast-paced world.

In April last year, GroupM brought together talent and solutions from Finecast, Xaxis and GroupM Services to form ‘GroupM Nexus’. It is a media performance organisation, with a goal to build a tech-enabled future that is accountable to advertisers’ growth goals.

A year later, the organisation works as the ‘Engine of GroupM’, facilitating all media planning activities. It offers support and empowerment to the agencies, enabling them to cater to their clients effectively. This support includes design thinking assistance and intelligence necessary for engaging with new clients. It also handles the entire delivery process of performance marketing.

Priti Murthy, president of GroupM Nexus, says that it empowers agencies to achieve success in the overall performance narrative of their business. It also focusses on driving collective performance for clients’ business goals.

“Our vision is to bring this to life for agencies. You can expect significant developments over the coming months,” she shares

Edited Excerpts:

GroupM Nexus is considered the ‘Engine of GroupM’. What role does it play in the organisation?

An engine makes a machine work. So, GroupM Nexus serves as the driving force for the organisation. It plays a crucial role in facilitating media planning activities, be it for TV, radio, cinema, performance marketing, influencer marketing, etc.

The key performance indicators and performance management for all these mediums, are managed under Nexus, with a dedicated team responsible for its operations. Nexus is positioned as GroupM’s performance engine. It was formed to simplify the organisational structure, moving beyond the concept of a performance agency.

We have ensured that agencies receive appropriate support and empowerment from Nexus, because our role is to provide solutions and deliverables to them, enabling them to cater to their clients effectively.

Marketing has evolved, post-COVID. Add to it, the need to wade through so much data, with speed. How is Nexus helping its clients to deal with the new reality?

Nexus houses simplified processes, intelligence and narrative data technology. It encompasses data consulting, including the consulting arm under GroupM, and data intelligence that streamlines and delivers a data ecosystem. This involves working with agency and consulting teams to create data architecture, ADH solutions and clean data rooms. Nexus has pioneered these advancements.

From the client’s perspective, they may not directly perceive Nexus as much as the agency itself, such as Mindshare or Essence that are powered by Nexus. Nexus serves as the brain and spine of these agencies, combining their focus on client design thinking, and mapping it to current and future needs.

The last mile attribution has changed due to advancements in commerce, resulting in improved consumer experiences and easier payment options.
Priti Murthy, president, GroupM Nexus

The consumer’s journey is also fragmented. This means that the marketer possibly needs tools to get a holistic view to trace consumer journeys. Is the marketing funnel still a funnel, or is it a shape-shifting creature?

To me, it has always been a shape-shifting creature, never resembling a funnel. Let’s consider our own experiences as consumers. Our purchasing behaviour doesn’t follow a linear path, whether it’s a small or large transaction. However, the last mile attribution has changed, due to advancements in commerce, resulting in improved consumer experiences and easier payment options.

We no longer rely solely on credit cards. We now have UPI or cash on delivery. This transformation in the ecosystem, highlights the importance of understanding this aspect of business and connecting it to media and communication. Especially in the pandemic and post-pandemic era, this linkage has gained significance, as we have rapidly embraced a cashless society, resembling China in many ways.

With regard to CTVs, there is an increased interest from broadcasters and even OEMs. But advertisers are still not very excited about it. What are your thoughts on this?

Let’s go back to when digital advertising first emerged. Initially, it was primarily focussed on display advertising. It then expanded into search and other formats. However, CTVs have disrupted this natural progression. Consumers are embracing it, but marketers haven’t fully caught up with the experience.

If you had asked me back in January, I would have said it was still in its early stages, just finding its footing. Finecast took the lead in productising the CTV space. As a result, we’re now witnessing triple-digit growth rates. For instance, after the IPL, there has been a tremendous surge.

What are the factors that led to this boom? What has changed over these last two months, and what is your expectation this year?

Consumer adoption has increased and, as agencies, our role is to educate clients transparently and explain how these solutions work to address their end goals. CTVs, though digital in nature, represent a shift of the TV audience to another platform. We are effectively incorporating TV planning fundamentals into CTVs, aiming to build a reach ecosystem.

It’s no longer about adding CTV as a separate digital component, but integrating it seamlessly into the video planning ecosystem, alongside platforms like YouTube, Facebook and OTT. CTVs are now considered to be an integral part of video solutions, similar to YouTube, Meta and other video platforms.

It's no longer about adding connected TV as a separate digital component but integrating it seamlessly into the video planning ecosystem.
Priti Murthy, president, GroupM Nexus

So, by the end of this year, where do you see the CTV space?

Currently, there are approximately 10-12 million households using CTVs, and it’s projected to reach 15-18 million by the year-end. However, the crucial aspect is to start experimenting and learning now, because the video planning business is expected to undergo significant changes over the next 3-5 years.

Another interesting advertising space, is that of e-commerce platforms. What are your views on this space?

I’m pleased to see that companies are finally leveraging the power of consumer data, and translating it into product solutions. With a vast audience on their platforms, it’s crucial to strategise and communicate effectively with them. I’m glad these companies have resumed their efforts, as many had put their solutions on hold during the pandemic.

It will be interesting for us to observe and learn from these transitions. One key aspect is to determine whether these changes will be a part of an outcome-led approach, focussing on the top, middle, or low funnel. Once we clarify the language and approach for these products, we can scale them up more rapidly.

When conversion is the ‘Holy Grail’, where are the marketers spending all their money? What is your advice to brands?

Marketers today are speaking two languages: immediate-focussed and future-focussed. The immediate takes precedence, with discussions centred on the upcoming quarter, rather than looking three years ahead. Striking a balance between short-term results and long-term vision, is crucial. Without successful quarterly results, planning for the next few years becomes challenging.

Post-pandemic, we have entered an era where balancing the current quarter with a two-year vision, is vital. Brands that can navigate the current quarter successfully, have a higher chance of surviving over the long run. Even heritage brick-and-mortar brands, are transforming as commerce shifts.

The traditional monthly purchase basket has been replaced by one ordering products through quick-commerce platforms. This shift necessitates addressing the transitions and changes in planning strategies. Productising these platforms and incorporating them as line items in media plans with common KPIs, pose a challenge.

Despite each platform having its own KPIs, our role is to balance and provide intelligence to align with the client’s overarching KPI, regardless of the media channel used.

What are some big challenges that you’re currently facing?

The revival of new tech products in industries like fintech and edutech, is crucial for our industry’s future. It reflects the direction in which we are working and living. This presents a significant challenge for us.

Another major challenge is the ‘massification’ of data. Today, we have access to vast amounts of data, which we generalise and make available to draw insights from. The interesting part is mining through these insights and making them actionable and intelligent for brands. This challenge is not new, but with the improved harmonisation of data, as compared to five years ago, we encounter platforms boasting 30-40 million data points.

What is currently the most exciting facet for media agencies?

We are thrilled about the evolving language of media, and how we are proactively shaping it with our clients. Traditional media planning that focussed on TV, print or online, is long gone. It has shifted towards outcome-driven media solutions, encompassing engagement media, influencing media, and more. It’s no longer about media mix, but rather cross-channel planning, leveraging platforms in various ways to achieve different KPIs.

We have already initiated the transformation with Nexus, building our agency’s strengths and client narratives. Over the next two years, we will further embed these transformations, emphasising data-first working alongside data-first thinking. This is where significant changes will unfold.

What is your one big goal this year?

Our primary focus this year, is data-first working. With an abundance of commerce data and a robust data ecosystem within Nexus, our planners can make intelligent decisions and leverage tech innovations. This collective effort from GroupM, is dedicated to transitioning from data-first thinking to data-first working.

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